BJP president Amit Shah told party workers in Mumbai on Sunday that they should prepare to fight the 2019 Lok Sabha elections alone in Maharashtra as the rift with ally Shiv Sena widens, sources said. Mr Shah told the party's booth-level workers to prepare for an eventuality of a three-sided or even four-way contest with the BJP and the Shiv Sena fighting Lok Sabha polls separately, sources said.
"We should be prepared to fight alone in 2019," he was quoted as saying. "You should start preparing now so that in your booths 51 per cent voters vote for BJP," the BJP president added, according to the source.
The party is expected to release a list on people to be in-charge of the 48 parliamentary constituencies in the state.
The BJP has not made any official comment on the subject so far. While the two parties contested the 2014 parliamentary elections as allies, scoring a record tally, in the assembly elections a few months later, they split and fought alone. The BJP emerged as the single-largest party in the state for the first time ever. Even the Congress and its ally, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, fought separately in the 2014 assembly elections.
The Sena, which had to settle for the role of a junior partner in their post-poll alliance with 63 assembly seats, had announced earlier that it will fight the 2019 elections alone. In recent months, ties between the two parties have plunged to new lows, with Shiv Sena's near-daily attacks on the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi through stinging editorials in its mouthpiece Saamna.
On Friday, in a major embarrassment for the government, it abstained during the no-confidence vote in the Lok Sabha and went on to praise rival Congress president Rahul Gandhi despite his unrestrained attack on the BJP and the Prime Minister. Mr Shah had phoned Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray requesting his support.
The Shiv Sena's decision coincided with an all-out attack in Saamana, which carried an editorial saying: "Those ruling the country are butchers, who save animals but kill humans."
Political observers in Maharashtra say the BJP is not calling off their alliance yet but Mr Shah's statement signalled tough posturing, not helped by the 2014 parting of ways and the Shiv Sena's stand about 2019 polls and the no-confidence vote.